Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Thoughts on China, Inc.

UPDATE: Timely, I just received my weekly e-newsletter from John Mauldin this morning. He includes an essay from Charles Gave and Arthur Kroeber of GaveKal on "The Morality of Chinese Growth." Not only is it a good read, it speaks to China's continue progression towards freedom (with the exception of political freedom) and America's (the West's) perception of those not subscribing to their own political, social, and economic expectations.

"We Americans have a strange utopian tendency to assume that among all possible social bargains there is one perfect bargain out there (probably ours) and that it is our job to judge how well other people are keeping on the path to that bargain, any straying from which necessitates perdition for them and gnashing of teeth for us. But maybe we should just stop worrying about it. China will become what it will become and hopefully whatever it becomes will produce good results both materially and spiritually for most Chinese. As long as our society continues to do the same for us, it does not much matter whether the two societies wind up looking a lot or a little like each other. Chacun son gout!"

Read more here.

As most people who know me know, I'm a fan of China and Asia in general. China is the engine of the new world order - and I don't think that's changing anytime soon. We've all heard the reasons for this - people, resources, leadership, Communism, religion (or lack thereof), strategy... or whatever else it may be. But what I've admired most is China's unwillingness to engage in policies or action that takes the government's focus away from itself. Or to succumb to external pressures regarding their actions. They are precise and purpose driven. And Western counterparts, including the US, rarely question or challenge their actions with anything more than words. To be clear, I'm not saying I support Chinese policy - what I'm saying is, I admire the fact that they can act as they do with very few repercussions.

China's UN voting record supports China's non engagement strategy. They are known for abstaining on politically sensitive issues external to them. And they've only used their veto power 6 times throughout their UN membership (US - 82 vetoes, Russia - 123 vetoes).

China also invests heavily in development projects in Africa - not with the aim of helping the African people, but to sate their continued push for resources to power their engine. They currently import 25% of their oil from Africa.

They have an awful human rights record. While I commend Google's attempt to stop censorship, they underestimated China's willingness or need to modify their stance.

China supports N. Korea, not because they believe in N. Korea, but to keep the Korean peninsula less stable and to keep US at bay.

China's controls their people - they control gatherings, internet access, politics, resources, money, etc.

While they continue to open up their economy, the real question on the success of China will be answered only when they are forced to confront their social/political issue, which is many years away. For now, their economic dominance will march on.

China has no motivation to change. And a mix of their unique political system, their historical relationship with the outside world, and their economic success, ensures that change will not come all that soon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The iPhone... Finally Fixed, but I'm Still Throwing It Against the Wall

So I waltzed into the Apple store last night for my appointment at the Genius bar. I was so sick of the phone in my pocket that I had to do something about it. The "genius" picked it up and tried to open my txt messages. Tick, tick, tick... even he had trouble hiding the surprise at what a piece of crap my phone was. Well it didn't have the latest OS on it... because, well, we all know what happened when 3G owners upgraded to the iOS4. Ain't no way I was upgrading unless I had damn good reason. Now, just for the record, I removed all of the apps I had on my phone. I re-imaged the thing from scratch. It had nothing on it but the OS and whatever the hell Apple puts on it. I removed the Searchlight or whatever that pre fetch crap is. Disabled everything. It was a bare bones phone... and it still didn't work. Maps hung. Internet hung. Text messages barely loaded. It turned what was a shitty phone and a good device into a shitty phone and a shitty device. And remember, the iOS 4 came out in June.

Anyway - he says he can't do much until I upgrade. I upgraded. Low and behold...the device works again. At least a little better for now. And I'll now realize what a shitty phone it is again. But screw the iPhone. I got myself an Android in the mail. June - September... that's how long it took for them to get a fix out.

Yes, the iPhone was a great device. They figured out how to solve the smartphone issue and get it in everyone's hands. But they treat their customers like such crap that people like me are more than excited for an excuse to leave them. See ya iPhone. And when the new phone comes in, yes, I'm going to throw this piece of junk against the ground, smash it up real nice, and feel good about myself.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why Are People So Stoopid?

I woke up a little while ago - and flipped on the tube, because I just wanted to lie in bed. It was overcast.

I heard this guy talking on NBC classroom or some show like that about California potentially changing the age for kindergartner's in the state (here). It would hold some young kindergartner's back for a variety of reasons (maturity, etc.).

It wasn't this mere fact that really made me think people are idiots. It was the fact that the biggest push for getting this bill through is a $700 million dollar per year savings that people are touting ($9.1B in 13 years). With the extra money, they are planning to have pre-kindergarten classes for those children held back, along with other programs (at a price of over $350 million). Why is this so stupid? Because you're not saving $700 million. These kids are going to kindergarten the next year. And then guess what? When those kids would have been out of the public school system, they're now hanging around for another year. Add inflation and you're definitely paying more than $700 million a year for those same kids. Plus the $350+ million per year they're spending for pre kindergarten kids. Plus the burden on the parents who now have to figure out what to do with their children for another year. Another brilliant idea by a politician.

If it's about parental choice, then leave it up to the parents. Every kid is different and matures at a different age. If it's about saving money - save money, don't just push costs on to another generation or add to them.

Here's the quote from our fearless state senator:

"State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said the proposal would boost kindergarten readiness and save the state an estimated $700 million a year by reducing the student population. He estimates the savings to be $9.1 billion over a 13-year period. The savings come from fewer students in class and that ripple, according Simitian, would continue for thirteen years." (source)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rude Entrepreneurs - Don't Be One!

I doubt the people I met with last week will read this, considering I never heard back from them, but I wish they would.

When people ask me to meet with them regarding their startup or some ideas they're working on, I'm generally more than happy to do so, for two important reasons. 1) I really like helping people and progressing ideas. And 2) when I was doing my own startup, it was a pain in the ass to get people to sit down with me. It was frustrating. So I'd like to do my part to help other entrepreneurs.

With that said, if someone does decide to meet with you, here is a simple lesson - extend some common courtesy. I don't mean to act like a parent here, but maybe you just weren't taught this growing up. My inclination, and yours should be too, is to at the very least send a thank you email. What's that take - a minute? I guess it was my mom who I can thank for my insistence on gratitude - but a thank you goes a helluva long way. Like if some dude cuts me off on the road, a hand wave can save me laying on the horn.

You should also operate like an entrepreneur. I was tipped off to something amiss when they selected a pricey lunch spot. They're doing a damn startup! Then one half of the duo was at least 10 minutes late - and she was the one who wasn't working. Don't be late! Again, not when you're taking time out of someone else's day. And third, when the bill came there was no movement to grab the bill. Even when I was doing my startup, I always paid for lunch or at least offered. It was the least I could do for an hour of this person's time. But it wasn't an hour this time. It was two. And they ordered dessert when I told them I wasn't having any. What the...?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Coinstar is Legit! I'm Impressed That They Don't Suck.

First of all, I'm really impressed that I didn't have to write a blog post declaring that Coinstar sucks hard! Now this would have been in addition to their rates that I find to be outrageous. They take 9.5% of your deposit as their service fee (at my location). I don't know - maybe that's fair if you think about what they have to do (have some college kid pick up a few bags of pennies and bring them to the bank)? So let's say each machine gets filled up with $5k in coins. That's 500 bucks per machine per fill to walk them to a bank. Let's say each machine is filled once/month - that's $6,000/year. Give the store 20% and they have $4,800 per machine (minus 12 trips to the bank). That's a good gig. You get a couple of these machines and you're in business.

I finally moved back to San Francisco from the burbs after 3 years. Man I hated the burbs. I thought it would be cool not worrying about parking, having space to relax, and having the outdoors out of my back door. But man was it boring.

So I cleaned out my bedside table where I throw all my lint covered change and I marched down to my local Coinstar machine. Apparently there was too much lint or too much change stuffed into the machine and it broke. Now I had selected the payout as an Amazon Gift Card so I wouldn't be charged a service fee, but the damn machine, after it was fixed, spit out a cashout. I was pissed because I had to now pay 10 bucks to Coinstar for their machine breaking.

I emailed them Friday and fully expected either not to hear from them or to be told there was nothing they could do. I was dead wrong. They asked a few questions and sent me a check already. Now that's how it should be done. We've suffered too long with crappy customer service in this world.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I Love Steven Hawking Even More! Shockingly, there is No God!

Steven Hawking is arguably one of the greatest theoretical physicists of our time (post Einstein of course). And yesterday he said something that I've believed since I was at most 8 or 9 years old. He said that "the universe can and will create itself from nothing".

To most people I know - not all that astounding. I just love that it's getting publicity, and from such a reputable source. Now we're gonna have to take a second like at Darwin and his theory.

The best part? Religious zealots, er, I mean leaders, are already coming out of the woodwork to refute Hawking's claims (here). And so are incredulous readers/commenters. Some of their quotes are awesome!

"Love is reason to believe in God. I love my wife so much that I would die for her. When I play her Billy Joel songs on my piano and sing to her, it makes me believe that God exists." -perk2289

Sorry dude, god told me he hates Billy Joel.

Here's a nice tweet from an idiot, I mean DaOneMulatto: "If u really belive what Stephen Hawking says...then do us all a favor n go drink bleach!!"

Hey DaOneMulatto - do you think that's a very godly thing to say?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dude, I've Been Had Again! Quiznos Caloric Intake Ruins My Healthy Eating!

So I generally try to eat healthy food. I don't always, but I think I do pretty damn well. One of my mainstays when I'm going to a sandwich shop is to eat tuna. Ham or Tuna - because I tend to think they're healthy options. I know Turkey is too, but the only time I really like Turkey is during Thanksgiving dinner or when I want to have a tasteless sandwich after a mean night of drinking. It just doesn't do it for me unless it's lathered up with gravy, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Mmm....

Let me explain a bit more why I think tuna is healthy. Because when I eat it at home, I usually put a can or maybe a can and a half on my sandwich. A can of the solid white albacore, has maybe 70 calories and a gram of fat. Toss in some light mayo and you got yourself a healthy sandwich - and it tastes great too (especially with some pickles, lettuce, and tomato). Forget the mercury - I figure it's not going to kill me... especially because nobody can decide if it's really that bad for you (here).

So with my endless amounts of wisdom, I made the determination that there's no way a restaurant, even a valueless amoral fast food restaurant (which apparently Quizno's is), could damage tuna's reputation so much as to make it unhealthy. I totally get that making burgers is unhealthy - I mean, look at the base: grade D ground beef. But tuna?

So imagine my shock when my world came crashing down last week. A Men's Health article listed the worst meals in the country. Worst sandwich? My beloved tuna, server up by Quiznos - with a healthy side of Cheetohs (shown here). Leave out the Cheetos and it's still got 101 grams of fat. ONE HUNDRED AND ONE! Are you kidding me? And 1500 calories. That explains my strangely high cholesterol. And that also explains why Quizno's is now out of my life. I feel like smackin' that damn talking toaster upside the head!